A SpaceX “Starship” prototype rocket made a pinpoint landing for the first time after a test flight in Texas but then exploded on the ground some three minutes later, the company confirmed.
Why the rocket exploded on Wednesday was not immediately known.
SpaceX engineer John Insprucker described the goal of Wednesday’s test flight as collecting enough data on how to control the craft on re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere.
A few hours earlier, a first attempt had been aborted a fraction of a second before the planned launch, but the engineers decided to try again shortly afterwards.
In earlier attempts in February and in December last year SpaceX rocket prototypes also blew up during landing after a test flight.
The aim of the experiments is to test individual elements of the new rocket.
According to plans by SpaceX boss Elon Musk, its Starship rocket prototype will someday transport cargo and people to the moon and Mars. Musk wants to make Starship completely reusable.
To achieve this, the SpaceX rocket has to perform a turning manoeuvre in the air and then land back on the ground in a controlled manner.
The rocket is designed for use where there are neither launch ramps nor ideal landing sites – for example on Mars.
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